Zablocki had the slightest hunch Red Wings would come calling
He had no way of knowing for sure, but Lane Zablocki wasn’t shocked when the Detroit Red Wings plucked the Red Deer Rebels winger in Saturday’s third round of the NHL entry draft.
“I didn’t really know going into the draft kind of where and when I would go,” he said after being selected 78th overall as the second of the Red Wings’ four third-round picks.
“But I thought when I had talked to Detroit at the combine (recent NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo, N.Y.) that it went really well. I thought it was one of my better interviews so I definitely had a feeling that was one of the possibilities.”
Zablocki didn’t attend the entry draft in Chicago, preferring instead to keep track of the proceedings with family members at his home in Regina.
“I talked to a lot of people and was told the draft is a big show,” he said. “Unless you’re going in the first or second round for sure, it can be really stressful because it’s really unpredictable what can happen. I stayed at home with my family today. It was pretty relaxing.”
Zablocki was acquired from the Regina Pats in a blockbuster, multi-player deal Jan. 10 and was immediately one of the Rebels’ most effective forwards.
He finished the 2016-17 campaign with 28 goals and 54 regular-season points split between Red Deer and Regina, with the majority of his goals — 19 in 31 games — coming with the Rebels. The Wetaskiwin native was ranked 52nd by Central Scouting regarding North American skaters eligible for the draft.
Zablocki also contributed six goals and eight points during the Rebels seven-game, opening playoff series loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Despite his rise up the Central Scouting rankings — from No. 70 in the mid-term listings — Zablocki was still in awe of the fact he has taken the first step towards becoming a National Hockey League player.
“I still can’t believe it right now,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed of and just seeing my name on the TV . . . it’s unbelievable.”
Zablocki had yet to hear from the Red Wings by late Saturday afternoon but expected to be contacted by someone in the organization later in the day. He will attend a Detroit prospects camp in July and will likely be invited to the team’s main camp in September.
Red Wings director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright insisted he’s impressed with not only Zablocki’s physical talents but also his intangibles. Wright compared the 18-year-old to feisty forward Tyler Bertuzzi, the club’s second-round pick in 2013 who made his NHL debut last season.
“He’s like Tyler Bertuzzi in that he is a hard player to play against. He just comes all the time,” said Wright. “He has heart, he competes, he’s got good sense. If he’s not factoring in on the scoresheet he’s factoring in on the penalty side of it as far as he’s a hard player to play against.
“We liked him taking him where we did. He was a guy we targeted today and we got him.”
Zablocki was the lone Rebels player selected in the draft. Forward Austin Pratt went into the two-day event ranked 103rd by Central Scouting among North American skaters but was passed over.
Just notes: Two players on the Rebels’ U.S. college list — forward Grant Mishmash, 18, and 20-year-old defenceman Wyatt Kalynuk — were selected Saturday by the Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers, respectively. Mishmash, who’s been with the U.S. Development Program and is committed to the University of Dakota for the 2018-19 season, was taken in the second round, 61st overall. Kalynuk, who played the last three seasons in the USHL and will attend the University of Wisconsin this fall, was picked in the seventh and final round, 196th overall . . . Sylvan Lake’s Tyler Steenbergen, a Swift Current Broncos forward, was selected by the Arizona Coyotes. He was taken in the fifth round, 128th overall.